Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Some Malaysians do not know Bahasa Melayu? Its urgent that the Gomen implement the "Satu Sekolah untuk Semua" System

I think it is very sad to be told that after after more than 50 years of Merdeka we still have citizens who does not speak Bahasa Melayu:

Some Chinese don’t speak Bahasa at all
By Sheridan Mahavera May 14, 2011

KUALA LUMPUR, May 14 — A The Malaysian Insider street poll of 107 Chinese adults has found that 28 of them, or 26.1 per cent of those surveyed, had almost no command or could not understand Bahasa Malaysia.

Of the 75 respondents who understood BM and took the survey, 16, or 21 per cent of them felt that knowing or using the national language was not as important in their lives as knowing Mandarin or other Chinese dialects.

About 37 per cent of those who took the survey (or 28 respondents) used BM less than five times a day. While 20 of them said they either did not have to use it all or only used it less than three times.

The results suggest that within the Chinese community, there is a significant class whose members only interact with those who speak Chinese.

Recently, a separate national study by a well-known teachers’ association showed that one in every three Chinese primary school pupil cannot understand BM or English when they prepare to enter national secondary school.

The school survey by the National Union of the Teaching Profession (NUTP) also found that one in every four Chinese child who enters national secondary school will drop out.

This has led to claims that the dropout rate and the low level of BM proficiency have created a group of Chinese adults who only interact with other Chinese, creating a barrier for greater inter-ethnic integration in plural Malaysia. Read more here.

Its mind boggling indeed that while many concerned Malaysians will try to find out what went wrong and how to resolve and bridge this Language gap:

Malaysian. Chinese. Totally foreign — Lisa Ng (
May 14, 2011

MAY 14 — Chong Eu Jienn is 15. He lives in Kepong, KL. He speaks fluently in Mandarin. If you ever get lost in Kepong and bump into him, please do not ask for directions in English. He will not know how to respond to you. If you switch next to Bahasa Malaysia, he might be able to bring up a broken explanation consisting of recognisable words like “sana” or “depan” but the rest might be in Mandarin so you’d better know a bit of the language yourself if you want to understand what he is telling you.

Eu Jienn is a product of the vernacular schooling system. His parents decided long ago that their children would be educated in a Chinese independent school. Firstly, China was quickly becoming an important economic power. Secondly, friends with children in national schools were lamenting about the quality of teachers in such schools. Thirdly, Eu Jienn’s parents came from very strict family backgrounds — discipline was top priority for them and Chinese schools were renowned for discipline. Fourthly, Eu Jienn’s parents were DAP supporters. His grandparents were aligned to BN due to the presence of the MCA which was felt to represent the Chinese voice in government. But the loyalty ceased as the political landscape shifted with Mahathir, in favour of the Malays. Besides, what was so important about English or Bahasa Malaysia anyway? If Eu Jienn performed well academically, he could get a good job in Singapore or China. Singapore, for one thing, was close enough to stay in touch with their eldest son. Singapore was also kind to the Chinese. And, yes, in Singapore, people spoke Mandarin.

You could hardly blame Eu Jienn’s parents for such a narrow view. For them, vernacular schools were the best bet to ensure a future of better opportunities for their children. They must have known how important English was as it is still the lingua franca of the business and working world. And yet they somehow chose to ignore this point in shaping their son’s future.


Why are Eu Jienn’s parents also unconcerned with their son’s inability to speak the national language? The national language is something every citizen of every country should be proud of and be able to converse in comfortably — a badge of their national identity. But before we clamour for the abolishment of these vernacular schools or talk about racism (not to be confused with Chinese patriotism), we should look at the big picture and consider all the factors that led Eu Jienn to where he is today.Read more here.

Some  apologists  from a really Chinese Chauvinist Party will predictably say these and worse:

DAP says vernacular schools not reason for poor Bahasa skills
By Clara Chooi May 15, 2011

KUALA LUMPUR, May 15 — A few Chinese DAP leaders have defended members of their community who are unable to converse well in the national language, claiming this was likely the fault of the present education system.

The leaders also brushed aside talk that an individual’s inability to speak Bahasa Malaysia could hamper the process of national integration or that the existence of Chinese vernacular schools should be blamed...

...But Loke disagreed with failure in national integration would be the sole outcome of an individual’s failure to master BM.

“Of course I fully agree that every Malaysian should master the language, especially the younger generation, but when it comes to integration, there are many other pertinent factors involved...

...DAP deputy secretary-general Datuk Ngeh Koo Ham expressed shock that there were those among the Chinese community who were unable to converse well in BM....

....“We master a language for the betterment of our future, like finding a good job, a good career and so on. So since many non-Malays do not opt for posts in the civil service where BM proficiency is required, their focus on learning the language is almost negligible,” he said.

However, Ngeh stressed that every Malaysian should at least possess basic knowledge of conversational BM for their everyday lives.

He said it was not justifiable for a person to be unable to understand basic BM. “Everyone in Malaysia should understand BM as a language of communication and unity,” he said.

DAP national vice-chairman Chong Chieng Jen also strongly disagreed that national unity would be affected by the Chinese community’s lack of proficiency in BM.

He pointed out that 30 years back, racial polarisation and segregation were less rampant than it is today despite the widespread lack of understanding of the BM language among the community.

“Less people understood BM then but there was less segregation. People mingled better than they do today. “So at the end of the day, national unity and integration is more about fairer policies.... Barisan Nasional politicians should stop playing racial politics,” he said.

He added that it was his personal belief that while BM is important in Malaysia, an individual could still get by without having mastered the language.

“It is good if you can speak well in BM because yes, it is our national language, but life goes on even if you cannot do so. It is just a bonus,” he said. Read in full here.

I say this, despite what the vernacular school apologists and proponents has to say, this is Malaysia and the official Language is Bahasa Melayu, a citizen must have basic command of the language enough for him to mix and mingle with the majority Malay/Bumis.

The command of Bahasa Melayu is essential to ensure integration and unity among the various races in the country, it is not a BONUS language as the ignorant and arrogant DAP Chong Chieng Jen said. The DAP or the proponent of vernacular school should not encourage racial segregation or polarisation, as such ethnic Chinese who calls Malaysia home must not be in denial, they do not live on an island all by themselves. Whether we like it or not as long as we call Malaysia home, the majority Malays/Bumis and Indians and the Chinese, we are in it together for the long haul ahead for better or for worse, only death do us part.

Now there are political parties pressuring the Gomen to recognise the Taiwan based UEC exams, if approval is given then we might as well forget about unity in diversity as there will be no unity if our children are segregated from young and polarized in adulthood and at work.

It is now very timely that the "Satu Sekolah Untuk Semua" System be implemented, strong political will is required by the ruling BN to see this through, act now before things get even worse.

Additional reading:

One School System – It’s now or never

Increasing polarisation among races, perhaps the "Satu Sekolah Untuk Semua" initiative is a cure?


Anonymous said...

Satu soalan mudah bagi DAP: Adakah mereka mencintai bahasa kebangsaan? Kalau 'ya', kenapa tidak pernah mendokong apa-apa usaha memartabatkan bahasa Melayu? Kalau 'tidak', bagaimanakah DAP boleh berani menuar-uarkan diri sebagai 'Malaysian First'? Dari segi apakah mereka Malaysian First? Masakan bahasa kebangsaan pun diperlekehkan.

Anonymous said...

Can SSUS ameliorate "the increasing polarization among the races" if the kind of discrimination (as below) against schoolboys and schoolgirls persists?

From the Star,

"Another student, Chai Sheng Min from SMK St Joseph in Kuching, who also obtained 10A+, said he only got a scholarship to study engineering at Universiti Teknologi Petronas while his friends who got 4A+ and 5A+ were awarded scholarships to do Pure Science in the United States."

Rest assured that this sorry case is only the tip of the iceberg. The minority students are victimized in various other ways too, for which unlike the clear-cut comparison of 10A vs 4A exam results, it is difficult to make a case with the education authorities or to bring a public complaint.

The backlash against one common school system does not occur in a vacuum nor without a long history of grievances. Stories like the plight of Chai Sheng Min has been recurrent since the inception of the NEP.

I've only heard the SSUS proponents use the stick approach, i.e. to browbeat the minorities into accepting assimilation of their children because as you know, Sekolah Kebangsaan has become synonymous with Malay-Muslim dictates. Recall the cases of bullying (Indians particularly being susceptible) and the racist principals -- again please remember, , what has come to light in the national media is but a fraction of what really goes on in schools.

Do you have a more persuasive carrot to offer for SSUS? Essentially, I would not be against the concept in principle but the facts on the ground to make it viable is a different matter altogether.

That parents reject Sek-Keb is but a symtom of the disease. Implementing SSUS still does not address the root cause, i.e. the blatant racial discrimination that makes Indians and Chinese shy away from SK.

After 6 years of primary schooling under one roof, then what? The Malay kids are packed off to MRSM and elite residential schools. So it's back to Dua Sekolah Menengah? And to two examination streams: STPM & matriculation? To double standards? You tell me.

The SSUS solution is clearly one-sided. Since SSUS has disingenuously swept all the above anomalies under the carpet, you can well see why sceptics are suspicious of the movement's sincerity, can't you?

Anonymous said...

Dear Eddy Daud,

I left a comment on this posting quite a while ago but you have not approved.

I understand that there's been some technical glitches with blogspot of late, so my comment may have been lost in transit or it could be that because it was rather lengthy, it inadvertently got redirected to the spam queue.


eddy said...

Dear Anon(9:07), thanks for the heads up, I did find your earlier comment in the "spam" section.

1. I think there is a mix up here,you talk about Scholarships which is an annual problem and the SSUS idea which has got nothing to do with scholarships.

2. SSUS is brought up because we see the need of children, our children getting to know each other when they are still in primary schools through to secondary and onward to university. Studying the same subjects in Bahasa Melayu and some in English with compulsory electives for Chinese(Mandarin) and Indians(Tamil). Hopefully when they mix together and speak a common language from young, when they grow up, they will be less polarised and don't find each other as aliens.

3. Scholarships are a different matter all together and I do not want to comment on JPA and Government policy. Suffice to say that the Government has their work cut out for them on the complaints received not just from the Chinese and Indians top scorers but also Malay/Bumi top scorers who cannot get a place because quotas for each races has been filled.

4. In a multiracial country like Malaysia no one race would be satisfied with what the Government can give to them in anything Scholarships, jobs, contracts etc. that includes the majority Malays too Bro.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for retrieving my earlier comment. With your indulgence, I shall presently reply in shorter segments to forestall the blogspot filter misdiagnosing my comment as spam.

Anonymous said...

1 (a). It’s to do with whether Chinese parents trust the gomen or not. Estimates vary but most agree that the percentage of them who reject SRK (schools fully run by the gomen) is in the high 90s (+-95%). Because scholarships are “an annual problem”, do these parents trust the gomen to be fair in awarding them? Only students who are in national secondary school are eligible for these scholarships. That the complaints/appeals are perennial and smack of racial discrimination is a disincentive for Chinese and Indian parents to enrol in SMK (after all, cannot get any scholarship, so what’s the point? Might as well study in Chinese primary school and then apply for S’pore scholarships/Taiwan uni seats or study in Tamil primary school and later do medicine in India on the parents' own money).

Anonymous said...

1 (b) And the parents may even opt for private vernacular school for their kids at secondary level. This being the situation, the feeder schools which are the SRJK (C) and SRJK (T) will not be replaced as first choice option by the SRK (=SSUS). Being always bypassed for scholarships makes the Chinese and Indians think that the system will never reward them, in which case what difference does it make if they remain outside the mainstream (i.e. in vernacular school)?

eddy said...

Thanks for your comments again Anon. I cannot give a reply to you as you seemed to tell me the vernacular schools are superior to the SKs. Nor do I want to argue about it as it is not my subject matter.

I still remembered the days when the vernacular Chinese and Tamil schools intake numbers were in sharp decline during the days when we had English and Bahasa Malaysia medium schools. Then some bright politicians probably MCA/Gerakan with pressure from the Dong Zongs people persuaded UMNO ministers to kill the English medium schools. Thereafter the intake to the vernacular schools rose until now. Anyway that is another story.

But the voluntary segregation of races due to different schools must be stopped if Malaysians have any hopes for integration and the stability that it brings. Remember by 2050 there will be 80% Malay Bumis in Malaysia by then and the Chinese and Indians will become a smaller majority then now. Integration is the only way into the future. Better start now.

Anyway if you are interested I have elaborated a bit more on scholarship in my latest post: